The Role of Messaging Apps in Your Support Stack

December 07, 2016 by Alex Yamamoto

The rise of messaging apps is fundamentally changing the way your support team communicates internally as well as externally with customers. Slack is the fastest growing SaaS application in history and is quickly becoming the communication and notification hub of your team. Our own survey of over 80 support teams revealed that 82% of teams used Slack. Perhaps more surprising was that the average number of Slack bots installed per team was over five, indicating how entrenched and utilized the app is internally. Much like your ticketing solution, Slack is another destination that is sitting open for your support team all day.  But it’s not without its challenges that affect the productivity of your team.

Think about your slack channels and how your support team communicates internally. A thread started at 9 AM can quickly become out of sight, out of mind by lunch. They are filled with noise, but also some valuable pieces of reusable knowledge as well. How do you reduce the noise for your agents and enable them to easily find the information they need to do their jobs? How can your team capture the knowledge that gets created everyday in these organic conversations for reuse for the entire team's benefit? These are some of the key challenges that arise as messaging becomes central to the way we work and communicate internally.

Messaging is also affecting the way you communicate externally to customers

Live chat has quickly become the leading contact source within the online channel, with 42% of customers indicating use of a live online chat feature vs. email (23%). According to a study done by Salesforce and Forrester channels like online self-service and chat have increased in usage by 10% in the past three years. Clearly, consumers are defaulting to support options that allow them to solve their problems in the quickest manner.

More importantly, 67% of customers reported using the self-service channel in the past year. That means two-thirds of your customers are actively trying to solve a problem on their own first, before they escalate an issue to an agent over the phone. So, when they do call, customers expect agents to solve their issues in one conversation. First call resolution rate is an even more important metric to measure with the increasing usage of the self-service channel. 67% of respondents say that having agents able to resolve a problem on the first contact has the greatest impact on customer satisfaction scores.

With the rise of live chat, speed has become the key differentiator for support teams. A study done on customer experience by Ovum revealed that 45% of customers expect a response in less than a minute when requesting support through the live chat channel, and 97% expect it in less than 10 minutes. The speed (and accuracy) of your responses are critical to ensuring your prospects and customers have positive and valuable conversations with your team. But your agents still spend more than a third of their workweek just searching for information! How do you arm your agents with the knowledge they need to respond to customers as quickly and effectively as possible to improve your key support metrics?

How to enable your support team effectively in this messaging-first world

The first step towards enabling your support team more effectively in this new world is to ensure the tools and applications you adapt fit into your team’s workflow. That means crucial applications in your support stack like an internal, agent-facing knowledge base must integrate with Slack (or other messaging app) and your ticketing solution. Your agents need to access relevant knowledge wherever they are working in order to maximize their productivity and respond to customers quickly. Let’s take a look at what an internal knowledge base integrated in Slack can do for your team:

1) Easily search for existing knowledge in Slack

When you search in Slack, you are searching through conversations. When you search your knowledge base, you are searching for content. Conversations are static, once they happen they don’t change. Knowledge, however, evolves as your company grows. So content in your knowledge base is meant to change.

Your support team needs a single source of truth so they no longer have to search in between multiple Google Drive and Box folders, email threads, and Slack conversations just to find what they are looking for. Even if they do find it, they don’t trust it because they understand that conversations and email threads are static as well. While it was accurate at that point in time, now it’s two months later, and given how quickly processes, troubleshooting guides, and your product changes, your agents don’t want to misinform customers. This lack of confidence in your knowledge base leads them to message or shoulder tap the subject matter experts on your team.

 

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And distracting experts is costing your team money - a recent study showed it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to recover from an interruption. One-off messages and shoulder taps don’t scale, especially when your client-facing teams continue to grow and individually message the same questions to your experts over and over again. Finding a knowledge base solution that can easily be searched within Slack is key towards eliminating the distracting interruptions that are hampering the productivity of your team.

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2) Capture new knowledge that gets created in organic Slack conversations

Your Slack channels are filled with a wealth of relevant company knowledge that has been created through organic conversations. The beauty of the app is the fact that it facilitates collaboration between previously disparate teams like engineering, support, and product. But if you don’t capture that knowledge after it’s been created, you’re missing out on value created from using Slack. Worse yet, it means your subject matter experts are still getting constant shoulder taps and repetitive questions from your support team when you don’t capture the knowledge created in Slack. With a Slack bot though, capturing knowledge should be as simple as a click of a button. 

Once captured in your knowledge base, it can be immediately reused by your support team which will lower the repetitive questions your experts are consistently receiving.

Your key metrics improve when your knowledge base lives in Slack

Here are some of the benefits you should see after implementing a modern agent-facing knowledge base that lives wherever your agents work:

Improved first call resolution rate, time to first response, and CSAT scores: According to Forrester, 71% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service. Responding to customer’s issues in one call and not putting them on hold or escalating an issue to another support agent will help improve your first call resolution rate, and in turn will make for happier customers.

Decrease in onboarding ramp time: When your knowledge base lives where your work and your agents can instantly consume knowledge, they will learn at a faster rate as described by the 70:20:10 model. As a result, they can onboard faster which is important because of the turnover associated with client-facing roles. Call centers replace 26% of their agents every year, meaning you are constantly training new support agents. Your organization’s ability to quickly onboard new employees and turn them into top-performers is critical to your success.


Less shoulder taps for your subject matter experts, ensuring they are able to scale as your company grows:

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We’ve already described the problem in depth, but as the graphic above shows, for each new client-facing team member that joins your team, shoulder taps and one-off chat messages for your subject matter experts goes up in a linear fashion. Even worse, the same questions are getting asked of them over and over again as your Slack channels become noisier. When your client-facers can find what they need where they need it, you can minimize the amount of distractions for your team


Consistent messaging and issue resolution : Everyday, the lines between your sales, support, and customer success teams is blurring. In today’s SaaS environment, it’s becoming common for your customer success and support teams to engage prospects before they even interact with a sales rep! Thus, having one enablement solution across all your client-facing teams keeps all three teams aligned and will provide a consistent experience for your customers.

Additionally, when each department has their own knowledge repository, your subject matter experts are forced to learn three separate workflows for each of those products and duplicate content in three separate destinations. Worse yet, some of that knowledge is probably applicable to all three departments, which means they also have to keep that content up-to-date in three different places. As your team continues to grow that won’t scale, which makes it increasingly important to find a single destination for knowledge that works across all of your client-facing teams.


New technologies and communication mediums like Slack and the rise of messaging are changing the way your sales and support teams interact with customers, making the job of support operation teams harder than ever. However, implementing an agent-facing knowledge base that can surface knowledge to your support agents wherever they work will make your team's job that much easier.